Teaching students to be good, moral citizens is critical to their future as adults. Being a citizen means being a member of and supporting one’s family, classroom, community, social group, and country. Assuming children come to school with a developed idea of virtue, morals, and citizenship is dangerous. Today, more than ever, the family unit is disintegrating and other outside influences such as television and the Internet have crept into our children’s lives unchecked. As a future teacher, I hope to become a role model for good behavior and conflict resolution so my students learn how to become good citizens.
Learning how to build lessons around the idea of citizenship and creating a safe and respectful learning environment are important to the overall function of the classroom. One way to promote a respectful learning environment is to run the classroom like a democracy. At the beginning of the year, students can vote on what the classroom reward will be for good behavior over a period of time. The students will feel a sense of ownership over the reward and will work together in behaving appropriately in order to achieve the reward.
Another way to promote citizenship in the classroom is using the role playing model of teaching. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) define role playing as “students exploring human relations problems by acting out problem situations and then discussing the enactments. Together, students can explore feelings, attitudes, values, and problem-solving strategies” (p. 262). According to Joyce et.al. (2015), role playing explores how values drive behaviors and students think about how they feel and what is important to them. They also think about what is important to others and can develop empathy and compassion for others, while learning strategies for resolving conflict (Joyce et.al., 2015). Other benefits of role playing include improved listening skills, negotiating skills, reasonability. It is important for students to develop these skills in order for them to become good citizens in the classroom and life in general. See Figure 1 for an outline of the role playing model.
Citizenship can also be promoted in the classroom through the exploration of historical or contemporary problems using nonlinguistic representations, such as generating mental pictures and creating illustrations or drawings (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012). For example, when discussing Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the teacher could have the students imagine how Sacagawea might have felt when she initially came into contact with Lewis and Clark. Was she scared, angry, or interested? To further this thinking, students might be asked to think about whether they know anyone with Native American heritage or family. Considering how one’s actions impact others is critical to developing empathy and in turn good citizenship. When students are good citizens of the classroom, there are fewer interruptions and conflicts are resolved quicker and with less escalation. The classroom functions more smoothly in general, leading to increased concentration and learning.
There are many websites that include ideas for how to promote good citizenship and morals in the classroom. One idea in particular from this list that I like is a community service project such as picking up litter. My classroom could go out into the neighborhood surrounding the school and pick up litter. This would promote taking care of our natural resources and treating the environment with respect. I plan on incorporating many of these ideas into my future classroom in order to provide a positive, safe learning environment for my students.
Davies, L. (2002). 20 Ideas for Teaching Citizenship to Children. Retrieved from http://www.kellybear.com/TeacherArticles/TeacherTip27.html.
Dean, C., Hubbell, E., Pitler, H., Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement. 2nd Ed. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Joyce, B., Weil M., & Calhoun, E. (2015). Models of Teaching. 9th Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.